…publishes alleged fraudulent naturalisation notices
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has express grave concern over what he believes is an immigration racket going on at the Citizenship Department within the Ministry of the Presidency.
Jagdeo told reporters at his weekly press conference on Wednesday that there is an “enormous cesspool of corruption” at the Citizenship Department, which among other things, has seen fraudulent applications for citizenship here by foreign nationals.
He pointed to several such publications in the State’s newspaper over the past months that showed individuals applying for citizenship on more than one publications with different names and addresses.
For instance on February 5, 2019, a notice along with photograph was published of a young man by the name of Gabriel St Juste of Lot 56 Burma Mahaicony, East Coast Demerara, “applying to the Minister for naturalisation”.
However, two days later on February 7, 2019 a similar notice carrying the same photograph was published but with a different name and address – Daniel Garcia Farres of Lot 1010 Norton Street, Cemetery Road, Georgetown.
The same was done last month. Another notice published on March 27, 2019 stating that Rubesh Abdus of Lot 0 Tabatinga, Lethem, Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo), was also applying for naturalisation.
But, again, another publication two days later on March 29, 2019 saw the same photograph published with a different name and address, Hajime Beltran Abreu, of Lot 39 Owen Street, Kitty, Georgetown.
According to Jagdeo, these are just a few of several other cases found by persons from his party who are looking into the matter including Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira, who chairs the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs.
The Opposition Leader does not believe that these were mistakes but rather a “tip of the iceberg” of what he describes as a “deep dark hole of corruption” at the Department of Citizenship, which is headed by Minister Winston Felix.
“So it’s just the tip of the iceberg, they found several other examples so that cannot be mistakes. This is a pattern and it’s happening right before our eyes in Chronicle. They believe that people are not (noticing it) because most of us don’t pay attention to this issue and so we are very, very concerned,” Jagdeo said at his press conference on Thursday.
He went on to state that this is part of a larger corruption racket to give out citizenship to hundreds, possibly thousands, of foreign citizens, who may be either paying for it or were deliberately brought here for other reasons.
“So it something that we will be following up on seriously,” he asserted, noting that they have already brought it up with several authorities. Jagdeo added, however, he hopes the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has taken notice of these activities, which he said, poses risks for Guyanese.
He mentioned the economic citizenship programme that some Caribbean countries had implemented, whereby foreigners who invest certain amounts of money in the country were given passports, which subsequently begun attracting sanctions from the international community regarding the use of passports from those countries by ordinary people.
Jagdeo said Guyanese are likely to face the same fate and could be subjected to intense scrutiny since the integrity of Guyanese documents will be questioned.
On the other hand, the Opposition Leader went on to highlight that they also have concerns when it comes to the increasing number of foreign nationals entering the country. He said figures from COPA Airlines show that from October last year to March this year, some 3800 Haitians came through Guyana and most are still likely here.
Jagdeo pointed out that Guyanese have been complaining that these foreigners are here looking for jobs and are making it difficult for locals because they (foreigners) work for less pay and so they get hired over Guyanese.
Further, the Opposition Leader also questioned the integrity of the entire system, saying the “digitisation of records” is particularly suspicious since false data can be inputted into the system, which can then be used to give false identification to the masses of foreigners coming in the country.
The parliamentary Opposition had long been saying that the coalition Government is granting thousands of Haitians and Cubans citizenship in order for them to get voting rights for the upcoming elections. But Government had rejected this notion.
A meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs back in June 2018 had revealed alarming statistics which thousands of Haitians and Cubans are not only overstaying their time in Guyana but cannot be accounted for.
As of April 30, 2018, a total of 1238 Haitians arrived in Guyana but only 85 left the country. In 2017, 3515 Haitian nationals entered Guyana and 291 left, while the year before out of 722 Haitians who came here, only 451 were on record as leaving. There were 770 Haitian nations who arrived in 2015, 227 in 2014 and 188 in 2013 but only 136, 113 and 99 left the country respectively.